First Impressions: The Book of Boba FettThe Dark Herald
At first, I thought I was going to really like it.
The show opens with Temuera Morrison in a Star Wars healing tank and he is having a series of quick-cut nightmares. After a flashback of Daddy’s helmet rolling in the dirt courtesy of Mace Windu. Then his dreams answer the very reasonable question most Star Wars fans had for years, how did he get out of the Sarlac pit?
Although, a better question would be, how the hell did the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy end up there in the first place? At this point, I honestly think Robot Chicken’s explanation, that Boba was drunk off his ass, should be made canon.
Anyway, since Boba fell into the pit with all of his equipment on him, he doesn’t have that much trouble blasting his way out of the Sarlac, which actually makes sense.
He then passes out on the sand, spent, either from being soaked in digestive acid or having a bitch of a hangover. Or both. In that condition, he gets rolled by Jawas which scans with how he lost his armor. He gets left there on the desert floor and some Sand People come along and enslave him.
I was honestly kind of intrigued by a Dances with Boba Fett premise.
This sort of Paleface Becomes a Better Man plot was extremely popular with Hollywood in the Seventies and Eighties. Ruthless white man is captured by Indians, gets tortured for a little bit but then learns simple but important lessons about universal brotherhood and how it’s the White Man that is the real bad guy. That kind of crap.
It never happened in the real world, but you can make it work as a plot if you know what you are doing. Jon Favreau does and he appears to have closely supervised most of this episode.
So now I’m thinking, maybe this will be something more than I was expecting. We’ll watch how Boba becomes… Well not a good man, but the best a shithole like Tatooine could ever hope for in a ruler is a benevolent despot and really, it’s the best that a guy like him could ever hope to be anyway. This could work as a story, I decided.
However, when Boba Fett emerges from his healing tank, so do the problems with this show. We get to see him as the new crime lord ruler of Tatooine and honestly, he’s not very good at it. He starts collecting taxes in person, which is pretty silly for a guy who now owns the entire planet. And the first sign of naked defiance should have been dealt with by a ruthless beatdown. Instead, he gives a petty local crime lord a chance to think things over. This is called, looking weak when you most need to look strong.
That was one problem, but we should take a step back and look at the overall biggest one. Boba Fett himself.
First, there was the armor.
When Empire Strikes Back was in diapers, George Lucas wanted new more fearsome soldiers called the Imperial Shock Troopers for his new movie. ILM ran up one suit of the new all-white, Imperial armor for test footage. That’s when the problems showed up. The Shocktroopers were supposed to be able to fly, shoot fire and missiles, plus knee-darts for some reason. All of that stuff that wasn’t too hard for a production company to do by the time The Mandalorian was made but it turned out to be prohibitively expensive in 1980. Especially for a platoon of these new soldiers. Maybe one guy in that armor wouldn’t be too expensive though. So, waste not, want not, they needed bounty hunters for the next movie anyway, consequently, the armor got a new paint job, and its owner got a name.
Boba Fett made his first appearance in an animated short during the Star Wars Holiday Special and he was the only thing good in it.
What made this new character work was mystery. The fact that he was a bounty hunter and that he was chasing the trilogy’s resident cowboy, Han Solo, made Fett a new iteration of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name.” Star Wars now had a bounty hunter, who was also a man in an iron mask. Sure, I loathe Abram’s “mystery box,” but mystery has its place in storytelling.
We would have been much happier if Boba Fett had remained a source of intrigue. Who was this bounty hunter who never once showed his face? Where did he come from? What did he really want? And what would he do to get it? These were questions we never once wanted an answer to.
Just imagine Clint Eastwood riding out of town. His poncho flapping around him in a high breeze, a thin cigar clenched between his teeth and a hard squint in his eyes.
Random Townsman (slowly shaking his head): We never found out his name. He saved us all and we never found out his name.
Town Barber: It’s Carl.
Random Townsman: What?
Town Barber: He said his name was “Carl”. I asked him when I was giving him a trim.
Random Townsman: Carl huh? Carl. Maybe it’s as well that he’s leaving.
This is pretty much what George Lucas did to Boba Fett in the second trilogy. All mystery was removed, all motivations were explained (poorly). And the face beneath the helmet was finally shown. A deeply layered mystery gave way to a very simple cardboard cutout of a character.
Boba Fett has never recovered from it.
This is the fundamental problem with the Book of Boba Fett. The mystery that drove any real interest in this character has long since been washed away during the lesser years of George Lucas. You were never supposed to know what horrors lay beneath his helmet and they turned out to be a middle-aged Kiwi.
That was one problem. The other appeared to be budget cuts and time constraints on the special effects team. The same CGI construct would look good in some scenes and twenty years out of date in others. Given how much is riding on this show, it would be stupid for Disney to go super cheap on this one but that isn’t out of character for Bob Chapek. The Star Wars Hotel is a good example of Budget-Cut Bob’s penny pinching when most he needs to break open the piggy bank.
Now even with a big budget, things can go badly wrong with the effects. Black Panther wasn’t a cheap movie, but the CG was terrible. The problem with big-budget CGI is that the footage isn’t all done in one place. The footage starts with one team, gets handed off to another, then another, and then another. If any one of them drops the ball, the rest are left “polishing a turd.” And there is a deadline to meet, so past a certain point, you just have to render out whatever you’ve got and deliver it.
But I do think the problem was the budget. There were more of those problems than there should have been. For additional evidence, take a look:
The background droids are clearly and obviously Boston Dynamics robot dogs. This is 2022 droids were the stuff of dreams forty years ago but today I own one (it even flies). In fact, I own several depending on how loose you are with the definition. Hell, my car thinks it knows better than me when it’s on autopilot and my phone usually agrees with it.
Robots are simply not gee-whiz futuristic cool anymore. They are a nuisance.
My point is this, it was cheap and ineffective for the scene it needed to support. Today we are no more impressed with a Boston Dynamics robot dog than we are a flying drone.
In summary: The Book of Boba Fett initially showed promise, but I don’t think it will live up to it. The repeated Tuskan Raider backstory flashbacks are the problem. If Boba Fett was basically the same guy before and after his time with the natives, it might work. But this was clearly meant to be a transformative experience for him, which means they should have concentrated on that first. We are simultaneously seeing both the road of trials and the man he became at the end of it. It doesn’t create a cohesive whole.
This show is disjointed.
And the effects look cheap.
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